A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
Ancient civilizations visualized the world as being populated by an array of powerful yet unseen beings- beings working for good and equally for evil. The Israelites of OT times also shared this belief, but recognised these unseen beings as messengers of God, the Eternal One. Angels are not mentioned in the story of creation but appear in scripture soon after humans first appear on earth. Remember that when Adam and Eve are expelled from paradise an angel is positioned at the gates, flaming sword in hand, barring their return.
By the time we arrive at the last pages of scripture, we have had many encounters with angels – in the Old Testament and in the New, so much so that Scripture would not be the same without them. In the Book of Revelation, St John and his escort, stroll through by the river of life and take in the beauty and grandeur of the holy City, and the angel is quite alarmed when John falls down and tries to worships him. The angel insists that he is no more than a fellow servant of God in the same pattern as John himself and all the other prophets.
Angels make contact with us for a number of reasons: Michael is the warrior against Lucifer – Lucifer the bearer of light but Michael the one who is like God.
Gabriel, the announcer of the end of time.
Raphael the healer and Uriel the angel of death, although. Uriel never made it into Christian theology.
Angels come to announce God’s will as with Mary; to warn of impending trouble as for Mary and Joseph; to reprimand, guide, to rescue, to open prison doors as for Peter, to sing anthems as for the shepherds, and to announce the good news of hope as at the resurrection.
In heaven too we see battle and struggle as the archangels gather their forces and war breaks out. Michael and Satan ride into battle and Michael triumphs, banishing Satan, hurtling him down as a falling star from heaven to the depths of hell but ever since, Satan has won battle after battle among human beings who are foolish enough to think he has been defeated and is not therefore present in our lives. Satan still possess power because he is an archangel, albeit a fallen one. One of my favourite sculptures is the great bronze on the wall of the new Coventry Cathedral, depicting St Michael standing above a defeated Satan- or that is how most people see it. But if you look closely, you will see that Michael’’s spear has not yet entered Satan’s body – that Satan is not lying dead, but resting on one elbow still with strength enough to make him rise. Epstein’s statue reminds us if we look closely enough that the struggle between good and evil till goes on and will go on and on until the end of time.
The first church dedicated to St Michael was dedicated outside Rome on 29th September hence that date chosen for his festival. At the Reformation, Luther and the Church in England added the title ‘and all angels’ promoting the sense that Michael does not work alone – he is supported and aided by a whole band of the heavenly army of God. The title saint for Michael is shrouded in the past and in more recent times, it has been omitted in the Western Church as being confusing and associating Michael with a human presence rather than a spiritual one.
Many Icons and pre-Reformation wall paintings depict Michael dressed in armour, defeating a dragon, the image not only of evil but also of pagan, false and dangerous religions. This image of the angels and archangels is in sharp contrast with the Victorian pictorial image of pretty little girls with wings holding hands with a small child and leading them safely across the road or watching smiling over them as they kneel to say their prayers. This trivialises the work that angels do- bringers of Good news, the warriors against evil and the messengers of God. Angels are the unseen but ever present power from God in our lives, experienced but not always recognised, by we mere mortals. Today let us thank God for his involvement in our lives , involvement through things , seen and unseen.